Dietitians are the only qualified and regulated health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems at an individual and wider public-health level.
They use the most up-to-date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.
Dietitians work with healthy and sick people in a variety of settings. Dietitians work on altering their patient’s nutrition status based on their medical condition accommodating to individual needs. They often work as integral members of multi-disciplinary teams to a treat a variety of complex clinical conditions. They advise and influence food and health policy across the spectrum from government, to local communities and individuals.
Dietitians are responsible for assessing and supporting the nutritional needs of patients. They plan appropriate diets for patients who require nutrition support and provide personalised nutrition advice for each patient, taking into account their medical condition(s), social status, and family situation. Dietitians are able to combine and apply scientific nutrition information into dietary advice to prevent disease, promote and optimise health for individuals, communities and population groups.
According to British Dietetic Association, the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist is that Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be regulated by law, and are governed by an ethical code to ensure that they always work to the highest standard.
Dietitians have the expertise to provide individual dietary counselling, medical nutrition therapy, group dietary therapy and food service management. They can practise in several settings such as hospitals, clinics and local communities, to name a few, having completed a course of study that includes substantial theory, clinical placements and supervised and assessed professional practice in these areas.
Minimum requirement to become a Dietitian is a BSc Hons in Dietetics, or a related science degree with a postgraduate diploma or higher degree in Dietetics.
Dietetic courses are structured to include biochemistry, physiology, applied sciences and research methods which underpin nutrition and dietetics. These are complemented by social and behavioural sciences and the theories of communication to support the development of skills required for professional dietetic practice. All courses require a period of supervised clinical practice including NHS settings, where an individual must demonstrate clinical and professional competence before being eligible to apply for registration. Courses must be approved by the HCPC and demonstrate that graduates meet the Standards of Proficiency for Dietetics.
All dietitians can consider themselves as nutritionists, but nutritionists without a dietetics qualification cannot take on the specialised role of a dietitian.
Registered dietitians hold the only legally recognisable graduate qualification in nutrition and dietetics. In Singapore, at present there are no statutory regulations governing the practice of nutrition and dietetics. Registration awarded by the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) of the UK is an indication that a dietitian is fit to practice and is working within an agreed statement of conduct.
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